Republic of Ireland race towards Euro 2012

Croatia and the Republic of Ireland take huge strides towards 2012 finals as Bosnia and Portugal tie hangs in balance.

     Captain Robbie Keane (R) scored twice in Ireland's 4-0 win against nine-man Estonia [GALLO/GETTY] 

    The Republic of Ireland, Croatia and the Czech Republic all took giant steps towards qualifying for Euro 2012 on Friday but Portugal were left with plenty of work to do after their stalemate in Bosnia.

    In Tallinn, Ireland swept aside Estonia 4-0 to put themselves on the brink of their first European championships since 1988 and erase memories of their painful 2010 World Cup play-off defeat to France.

    Giovanni Trapattoni's men mastered minnows Estonia in this play-off first leg with a double from inspirational skipper Robbie Keane after first half contributions from Keith Andrews and Jonathan Walters.

    Estonia did not help their cause with two center backs sent off on a dismal night for a host country playing the biggest match in their history.

    With the return leg in Dublin on Tuesday Ireland can start thinking about packing their bags to Ukraine and Poland.

    Cruising Croats

    Croatia are also firmly in the driving seat in their play-off against Turkey after an equally impressive 3-0 defeat in Istanbul.

    Ivica Olic, Mario Mandzukic and Vedran Corluka did the damage to give the Croats a priceless win away from home ahead of the second leg in Zagreb.

    Euro 2012 play-offs


    Friday 11 November
    (first leg)

     Bosnia 0-0 Portugal
     C Republic 2-0 Montenegro
     Estonia 0-4 Rep of Ireland
     Turkey 0-3 Croatia

    Croatia got off to the best possible start, racing into a two minute lead when Bayern Munich striker Olic tapped in Corluka's cross from the left corner flag, with Turkey keeper Volkan Demirel found wanting.

    That was Croatia's fastest ever goal in Euro qualifying.

    Turkey began to make their presence felt in midfield but just after the half hour mark Croatia doubled their lead on an electric counter-attack down the right.

    Darijo Srna sent in a peach of a cross with Modric's shot blocked. The ball found its way over the right flank again and Srna tried again, this time Wolfsburg forward Mandzukic heading in by the far post.

    On 51 minutes Corluka compounded Turkey's misery, escaping his marker to run onto Srna's whipped freekick to head home from five metres.

    In Prague winger Vaclav Pilar and sweeper Tomas Sivok gave the Czech Republic a priceless 2-0 win over Montenegro.

    Euro 2004 finalists Portugal came away from their trip to Zenica with a goalless draw, with Bosnia-Hercegovina striker Vedad Ibisevic spurning two late chances to break the deadlock.

    After a largely uninspiring performance, Portugal, who famously ended Bosnia's 2010 World Cup hopes with two 1-0 play-off wins, now face a nervy return leg in Lisbon next week.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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